There is a streak deep in the human soul that hate privilege. High school has its preppies vs. greasers. Islam has Sunni vs Shia. It boils down to who is authentic and who got in the easy way.
When former WWE superstar Phil ‘CM Punk’ Brooks decided he wanted to try mixed martial arts, he didn’t train for years, develop skills, and then see how he did in the amateur ranks, where fights are stopped fast.
Instead, he signed a contract with the UFC. And then he started training, with the idea that when he was ready, he would fight.
Two years later world-class trainer Duke Roufus pronounced him ready. Simultaneously the UFC was looking for an opponent. Someone not yet UFC worthy, but legit.
UFC president Dana White did the matchmaking, as part of his Lookin’ For A Fight reality series. He found a very legit fighter in BJJ brown belt Mickey Gall, who was made his UFC debut in front of White. Gall was given a UFC fight against a less than stellar opponent, presumably to see if he could handle the ‘big show’ pressure.
Gall could. On Saturday the pair fight.
A number of fighters have expressed respect for Brooks for taking on a challenge where if he comes up short, he looks like a bloody fool, literally. Too, his stature in the pro wrestling community is undoubtedly bringing over new fans to MMA. And his coach very eloquently detailed all that is good about Punk.
Still, there is a lingering sense among some members of the MMA community that CM Punk didn’t put in his dues. That sentiment was given a full-throated roar by heavyweight Ben Rothwell, during a recent appearance on Ariel Helwani’s The MMA Hour.
“I [think] Mickey Gall goes out and just absolutely annihilates him,” said Rothwell, as transcribed byShaun Al-Shatti for MMA Fighting. “I mean, bad. Like, makes us almost start laughing, it’s so bad. And this is why, because I’m going to feel very good, like there’s truth, there’s justice in this sport. And hey, CM Punk is going to get paid. Like, major money. So it’s not like we can laugh and point at him. He’s going to be like, ‘I’ve never fought before, I don’t even have an amateur record. I came in here and took on one of your guys with two pro fights.’”
“So it’s just like, his worst case scenario isn’t that bad. We get entertained because he’s getting pummeled. Some of his fans might be a little sad, but it’s just like, whatever, he carries on, and then he proves it, he comes back and tries to win the second fight or whatever, where I feel like there’d be a type of justice or like a truth.”
“I don’t like the controversy. I don’t want to see it. I don’t want to see a second-round rear-naked choke from CM Punk. I don’t want to see it. It’s going to look stupid. It’s going to look questionable to me, it’s going to look dumb and I’m going to get mad … because after this many years in the sport, I’ve seen things, I know things about how we should perform. This is this person’s experience against this person, and this is what this person is doing. These are the things that I’m watching about how a person fights, so, I don’t know, we’ll just see.”
Ultimately, Rothwell says the fight will be good for all involved.
“I have a mix of emotions, I see many points of views,” said Rothwell. “On a business end, it’s great. More eyes on it. And then as a veteran of the sport, it’s like, man, there’s no dues paid. So it’s just an interesting thing. I don’t try to think too negatively about CM Punk. He’s a guy that was presented with an opportunity. He’s taking advantage of the opportunity, and he’s just taking it where he can go. It’s not like he came in and strong-armed the UFC and said ‘you’re going to give me this,’ and we’re like, ‘oh my God, he committed a crime, he’s forcing them to pay him.’ No, the UFC offered him a contract, he accepted it, which any one of us may have done.
“So it’s like, people need to get over it. That’s life. Crazy opportunities happen. More money getting thrown around, that could be good for everybody if it starts getting directed correctly. So I just try to look at that. And if anything, for Stipe, I congratulated him when I knew that CM Punk was getting put on, because he is getting paid on pay-per-view buys. That’s going to help him, so that was a good thing for him. So there’s positives from this, and more eyes on the sport is always good. There is no doubt that CM Punk has a fanbase. You cannot deny it and they’re going to watch him. That’s good for us.”